American University
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Boundaries of Expatriation: Class Among Expatriates in Saudi Arabia

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posted on 2023-09-07, 05:18 authored by Sarah Swick

This dissertation investigates the potential class coherence of expatriates in Saudi Arabia. It also investigates whether expatriates in the Saudi Arabia are members of the transnational capitalist class. I examine how government regulations and corporate procedures impose strong external boundaries that separates expatriates from wider Saudi society. I argue that the diversity of the expatriate group, both in terms of motivations and factors such as job, nationality, race and ethnicity, religion and gender, fragment the expatriate group, which leads to differences in the accumulation of economic, social and cultural capital among the various expatriate fractions. Despite these fractions, however, I argue that the expatriate group does cohere as a class. In addition to the common interest of accumulating capital, the strong top-down regulations impose boundaries around the group that produce expatriate spaces where they may share capital and interests across the various fractions. I also argue that there are bottom-up structural and cultural barriers that discourage both expatriates and locals from interacting across the boundaries. The lack of external interaction supports the creation of coherence among expatriates; however it also inhibits their ability to gain cultural capital, including skills and knowledge, needed to be a member of the transnational capitalist class. Moreover, the strict Saudi government regulations and corporate procedures deny expatriates the political power and control in the workplace that are also criteria for membership in the transnational capitalist class. These findings show that the particularities of place and the nation-state still play an important role in limiting the possibilities open to the transnational capitalist class.



American University


Koenig, Dolores; Leap, William; Vine, David


Degree Awarded: Ph.D. Anthropology. American University


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